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Barely a few months after the accession to the throne of His Majesty Mohammed VI after the death of his father, the late Hassan II, on 23 July 1999, there was a realisation that the country had undergone a change in speed and the nature of government, even of era. For here is a sovereign who has chosen to exercise his kingship outside his palace boundaries. He has preferred to put himself about effectively on the ground, making contact with his subjects at all the four corners of his kingdom.Back in the 1960's Americans were deeply divided on matters of war and race. While Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and religious leaders associated with his Southern Christian Leadership Conference led protests and committed acts of civil disobedience demanding civil rights, they were countered by white Christian preachers in the south who warned of the dangers of violating God's will by ignoring the punishment God had meted out to the "sons of Ham". And while New York's Cardinal Francis Spellman had traveled to Vietnam to bless U.S. troops as they battled "godless Communism", a Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan led fellow clergymen and women in protests against the war, often resulting in their arrest and imprisonment (in one case, for burning the Selective Service files of young men who were to be drafted to serve in the military). During this entire period I do not recall Christianity being described as a warlike or racist faith. Nor do I recall King and Berrigan being referred to as "Christian protesters". We did not engage in drawn out theological debates in an effort to determine which interpretation of Christianity was correct. Rather we defined these individuals by what they did. There were either "segregationists" and "civil rights leaders" or they were "supporters of the war" and "peace activists". What we may have understood, at least implicitly, was that because a person or institution used religious language to define or validate certain behaviors that did not make that behavior "religious". Nor did this define, by itself, the religion to which they adhered. This is something that many in the West still understand, at least when it comes to Christianity. Because President George W. Bush, in some speeches, described the Iraq war
Almost continuously H. M. Mohammed VI takes to the road with his royal caravanserai to visit a region where there are things to do and areas where intervention needs to be encouraged. As for the regions involved, they can vary from the far south of the country, on the border with the Sahara, to the far north, only a few cables’ length from Europe. As for the areas of activity to be rekindled, there is a very wide range of them.
Without prioritizing, we can cite higgledy-piggledy basic infrastructure such as the building of roads to facilitate communication or grant access to otherwise closed communities; supplying electricity and water fit to drink; galvanising the local economy or social sectors of prime importance like public health; creating drop-in centres for girls designed to encourage going to school in rural areas or sport and leisure centres. And this is only a part of the overall picture. A part no less responsive for that to the needs and expectations of the Moroccan people.
In each region he visits the sovereign stays for a fixed length of time. He launches new projects, makes sure that those already embarked on are progressing satisfactorily and inaugurates what has been achieved. His is what has been termed, justifiably, a reign of proximity. It has also been said that Mohammed VI is a peripatetic king. Even diplomacy and international relations have had to follow in the wake of these wanderings. So it is that the King of Morocco welcomes his illustrious guests wherever he happens to find himself, as, quite recently, he welcomed José Luis Zapatero at Oujda and Nicolas Sarkozy at Tangiers, among others. Both of them, if only to cite these two examples, were present as observers at, in the case of the former, the lightning transformation of a frontier town, an economy and a collective life-style of necessity special.
The latter bore witness to one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by an independent Morocco, Tangiers-Med, a great port of the Mediterranean basin doubling up as a duty-free zone with an incentive to industrialize and establish further links with its hinterland. Three developments over two periods of time thus sending out strong messages to Morocco’s European partners and its neighbours in the Maghreb.
The involvement of the sovereign is not just at the level of affairs of state, but also concerns itself with the preoccupations of his fellow citizens.
With regard to those who govern in Algiers it has now been intimated that, with or without the opening of the border between the two countries, Oujda will live and flourish under its own steam and the steam supplied by its own area, which includes Nador, getting bigger all the time, and Al Hoceima, now experiencing a veritable rebirth after its earthquake. As for Tangiers, a cosmopolitan town down through the ages proclaiming the universality of art and literature, it has come to embody Morocco’s two-pronged vocation of being an Arab and African town ever open to Europe and to the New World on the other side of the Atlantic.
All in all, in relation to an international environment in a state of flux, against a background of unstoppable globalization, Morocco owed it to itself to move in the right direction. There was no other alternative left to it than to follow suit so as to be in step with the present day or fall so far behind it would have been difficult to catch up. From the beginning of his reign onwards, H. M. Mohammed VI saw just how enormous what was at stake was and the crucial importance of time. He made the right decision. Getting to grips with the most pressing problems using the means at his disposal in a long term view of things to guard against any future problems.
At the start of those nine years that have just elapsed the country-wide “travels” of H. M. Mohammed VI in which Rabat, the administrative capital, was only a port of call, not even a permanent residence, intrigued people. In the popular imagination, this “travel bug” hardly seemed to conform to the usual image of a sedentary central power in which imposing ceremonial was more important than the object of the journey.
In spite of transitional appearances to the contrary, H. M. Mohammed VI no longer partakes of the same rigid protocol. He is only on the most remote of the country’s roads for specific objectives. His direct involvement is not just at the level of affairs of state, but also concerns itself with the preoccupations of his fellow citizens on a day to day basis, much to the satisfaction of those concerned. It is not for as much that the political microcosm has felt itself slightly hemmed in.
A great polemic then broke out about lines of demarcation between, on the one hand, the kingly powers of the monarchy and, on the other, the executive prerogatives of the government by way of the legislative latitude of Parliament and the necessary independence of the justice system.
It has even been said and written that if 4/5ths of the electorate did not deem it a good idea to take part in the legislative elections of 7 September 2007, the king is to blame. The latter, with his thought-out and spontaneous espousal of the vanguard, may be said to occupy the field of politics and free association to such an extent as to render vain in the collective subconscious of the electorate a democratic pact to elect candidates to represent the country nationally. It was only a short way from there to making H. M. Mohammed VI responsible, in his own understanding of taking on the obligations of high office, for a diminution of interest among ordinary voters in supporting political parties and some have been only too happy to travel this short distance with the help of press intervention. The argument is a little short-sighted. It does not succeed in hiding the internal squabbles undermining the life of parties and poisoning the political environment. Claims have been made for the revision of the constitution for a better definition of the king’s powers, more room for the prime minister to make his own decisions and ability to choose members of the majority government based exclusively on the free will of coalition parties. Without external interference. A legitimate demand to make.
It would be difficult to maintain the contrary. It would also be difficult to say to the former opposition that, after ten years of political coming and going, it has had enough time to transform itself into government parties. All the indications are that this has not been the case unfortunately.src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js">
Claims for constitutional reform do not succeed in hiding the squabbles undermining the life of parties.
The USFP (= Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires = Socialist Union of Popular Forces), historically the party of opposition, cannot even manage to hold its congress. The Islamic militants of the PJD (Party of Justice and Development) are a political non-event. These two parties are prime symptoms of a shambles in a sterile political discourse that can no longer manage to mobilize a decent minimum level of grass-roots support. It is well known that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The secular Moroccan version of the monarchy does as well. It’s a good thing too.
The total commitment of the sovereign to every aspect of community life also leads to unexpected questions of the sort: Is Mohammed VI an absolute monarch? The answer belies the meaning. It has to be in the negative when the action taken by the King of Morocco in favour of civil rights and national reconciliation after “the years of lead” that the country has gone through in the past is viewed objectively.
THE KING’S SPEECH
What remains to be done
An evaluation from multiple viewpoints. The king’s speech on the occasion of the 9th commemoration of H. M. Mohammed VI’s birthday outlined first of all a context defined by a difficult world situation and the effort expended by Morocco to resist it to the best of its ability. Even though economic indicators are giving the green light, the same problems persist –
first and foremost the employment question and its immediate corollary, unemployment. Not to mention its impact on the quality of life and the shrinking of the middle class in terms of social surface area. The sovereign reminded us that the only way over these difficulties was economic growth within the framework of a balanced and supportive society, allowing us to avoid any going off the rails. These difficulties, despite their negative social consequences, should not incite us to sow doubt in people’s minds and to propagate nihilism and despair nor to bandy about popularity-seeking slogans. These are attitudes His Royal Highness has not neglected to denounce.
The raft of reforms embarked on in various sectors of activity and of public sector management was accorded a place of honour. The justice system also got a mention and the sovereign, once again, urged us to rethink it in terms of a system of “judicial security”. Education, agriculture, energy and the control of water resources were also put forward as so many areas in need of a radically reforming and innovative approach.
The democratic process runs its course with its permanent aim being to have a democratically elected government. In order for that to happen the country needs to have available strengths, well structured and sufficiently well prepared for their role in government, in every area of national life. Even better, it is eminently desirable that our political life can furnish two great homogeneous poles, a bipolarisation that the late Hassan II had already devoutly wished for and that H. M. Mohammed VI has taken up and brought up to date within the framework of a new period of gestation.
A little as if the best had been saved to the last, the defence of the territorial integrity of the kingdom has been reaffirmed in no uncertain terms. Algerian hostility towards us has been explicitly denounced by the sovereign who has requested a resumption of diplomatic relations as an act of moderation. Without being smug about it.